Amendments in UAE's personal law status will make it easier for mothers in divorce cases to make decisions about their children's schooling, according to lawyers in the country.

"Usually, after divorce, the father makes the decision about education, medical treatment and right for the child to travel among others," explained Dr Hassan El Hais, legal consultant at Awatif Mohammad Shoqi Advocates & Legal Consultancy. "Now, the right to decide which school the child goes to has been given to the mother (as well). I will call it a win for the society because the amendment keeps the children's best interest at heart."

This change came when the Federal Decree Law No. (52) of 2023 amended some of the provisions of the Federal Law No. (28) of 2005 regarding personal status.

Asma Siddiqui, Senior Associate at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP agreed. "The recent amendments to the family law for Muslims in the UAE signify a significant move towards a more equitable and progressive society," she said.

"Overall, these amendments prioritise the well-being and autonomy of children while introducing mechanisms to resolve disputes and promote fairness in matters of custody and inheritance within the UAE's Muslim community."

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According to Dr Hassan, the changes were made after several people began misusing the personal status law. "Usually, young children stay with the mother and she decides which school they go to," he said. "But in some cases, the father would move the child to a really cheap or far away school to make things difficult for the mother. It was their way of getting revenge against the mother."

He further elaborated that such revenge moves were usually resolved by Dubai courts but it would take time.

"The court would rule in the favour of the mother but the verdict would take two or three months to come," he said. "During this time, the damage would be done on the child as they would be traumatised by the change in environment and school. This new change in law keeps them away from the circle of revenge."

Other changes

In addition, there are some other changes that have been brought in by the new amendment. As per the law, fathers are permitted to hold the child's passport but are obligated to surrender it to the mother. Nonetheless, instances have been reported where fathers have withheld passports.

"The new amendment stipulates that if the judge finds that the guardian is stubborn about not giving the passport to the mother or fosterer, he may order that it be kept with the fosterer in case of an emergency," he said. "Along with the child's identification card, the mother may retain the original or authentic official copies of the child's birth certificate and any other relevant documents."

Additionally, according to Asma the amendments to article 250 of the law tackles execution of Wills under Sharia principles. "It introduces flexibility by allowing courts to execute a will even without unanimous heir consent if deemed in the heir's best interest," she said. "This empowers judges to consider broader interests beyond strict legal requirements, ensuring fairness in inheritance matters."

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